In his lyrical and heartfelt introduction of his running mate, Governor Mitt Romney said one thing that particularly struck me. Romney spoke of Wisconsin Congressman and House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan's Midwestern background, and how it instilled in him a devotion and love of America. And then Romney said---in a brief biographical note---that Ryan's father had passed away when he was young.
That's when it hit me. The fall contest will be more Obama v. Ryan than Obama v. Romney. Obama and Ryan are the same generation, although Obama is several years older. They're both hip and cool. They're both gym rats. And they're both the intellectual leaders of their movements. The battle will be focused on these two personalities and the ideas and policies for which they stand.
That's why it struck me as incredibly telling that both men also had fathers who left them at an early age. Obama's father checked out and left the family when Barack was just a toddler. He later died in an alcohol-related car crash in Kenya, where he had returned to assist the socialist movement (advocating socialized medicine and a 100 percent tax rate). Ryan's father passed away when he was a teenager.
After losing their fathers, these men chose very different paths. Obama became a stoner, the leader of a dope group nicknamed the "Choom Gang." Later, he copped to doing "a little blow." As he's said himself, he went on to seek out the Marxist professors and students at school, became an Alinskyite, rabble-rousing socialism advocate that went under the euphemism "community organizer," and befriended anti-American radicals such as Bill Ayers, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, and Rashid Khalidi. After brief stints in the Illinois State Senate (where he voted "present" much of the time) and the U.S. Senate (where he was classified as the most liberal member, sitting to the left of the only self-described socialist in the chamber, Senator Bernie Sanders), he became president and took the country on a redistributionist joyride, creating a tornado-like path of destruction.
By contrast, when Ryan's father died, teenage Paul became the leader of his family. He took care of his grandmother, who suffered from Alzheimer's disease, so that his mother could go back to school in order to get a better job. He worked all hours to support his family, even working for Oscar Meyer selling hot dogs and Lunchables. Rumor has it he even drove the Weinermobile. He went on to serve his community as the youngest member of Congress (the year he was elected), rose to prominence for his intellectual rigor and honesty, and became the House Budget Chairman, a position from which he proposed two courageous and honest budgets to save America from fiscal ruin.
So let's see: Both boys faced the trauma of losing a father. One chose to be a professional grievance identifier, trafficking in teaching victimization and cultivating dependency on government. The other chose a path of self-sufficiency for himself, his family, and the nation; a road of self-determination, independence, and freedom -- in other words, the road the Founders so painstakingly gave each one of us.
When Obama speaks of the "fundamental transformation" of the nation, he means remaking America in the image of his father's socialist dreams. When Ryan speaks of "fundamentally restoring" the nation, he means moving America back to the nation of his father, in which individual responsibility, limited government, fiscal sanity, and economic freedom prevailed.
These are the competing visions for America. And they both began with men who disappeared from their sons' lives many years ago, leaving them with their animating spirits. The fate of the country will rest with which path we choose on November 6.